There are so many authors out there now, it’s like a world gone mad. I feel sorry for the poor reader, avid or not. How are they supposed to choose who and what to read? It’s something I’ve been trying to think about a lot.
How do I make my choices?
It’s difficult for me right now. Living in Spain, I have little opportunity to visit a bookshop. An English one, I mean. We used to have one where I live, but it has closed. They even stocked my books for a while, but now the whole venture has disappeared – along with my books! I’ll never get them back, nor will I get anything from the company. I’m not even sure if they exist. But I wander from the point (which isn’t uncommon for me!).
So…how do I choose a book?
Sometimes, it’s by the only really credible way – recommendation. A friend reads something, they pass on a copy to you. You like it, you then go out and buy another by the author. We all do this, and it’s a great way of discovering new books. Then there are recommendations in magazines, newspapers and, of course, Amazon. I like the way they link similar themes together, so if you put in a search for a well-known author you could end up buying a book by someone totally different. I read the reviews and take the plunge. This is how I came to Simon Scarrow, and his wonderful Roman Empire novels.
We might come to them via films – this was how I ‘discovered’ James Bond, or TV, which is how I came to Ian Rankin and ‘Rebus’. There are so many different ways, more than I’ve listed, but isn’t the best one simply going into a bookshop and sifting through all those lovely, freshly printed volumes? At a visit to ‘Waterstones’ I saw a staff-recommendation for a book, priced at only £1 as an introduction to an author. This was about ten years ago, and the author was Henning Mankell, and what a find he turned out to be.
Of course, as an author, I have another problem. How do I get people to pick up my books? Being with indie publishers, I have to do the marketing myself, which is a total pain I can tell you. I’d much rather be writing. Somehow, you do feel the pressure, even sitting alone with just your word-processor for a companion, to try and promote. Panic, frustration, they all gnaw away at you. How many times have I taken a break, popped over to Facebook and become dragged into to replying and commenting on posts? And as I do this, I become increasingly agitated by the armies of authors I see on there, shouting out about how brilliant their latest book is. So many now are wound up by the need to be published and to find success. Success, which means, sales. I look at their posts and I’ve now got to the stage where I simply scroll by, not even giving them so much as a glance. Unless it is by an established author. Then I might stop, and read. I did this actually. I tried to find some top authors on Facebook. John Harvey, for example. If you like thrillers, you’ll know who he is. He hasn’t got a Facebook page. The aforesaid Ian Rankin, he has, but I’m not at all sure if he writes it. The same goes for Lee Childs…is it him?
Some authors, like Simon Kernick, Harlan Coben and Michael Jecks often post something. Michael even tells us about his walks over the moors, which is fantastic. I love this approach, which is so unassuming, so personal and nothing to do with his books (which are great by the way). Natural. There are others, however, who simply use Facebook to declare their brilliance, or their particular bigotries. These latter ones happen to be also so-called sock-puppeteers and I no longer have them as ‘friends’ or, more importantly, buy their books.
As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m so disillusioned by all this social-networking rubbish that I’ve decided I’m pretty much going to turn my back on it. I’ve just read a blog by Bernard Cornwell. It’s like a breath of fresh air and reaffirms what I’ve always known – write a good story. The rest of it is nonsense. All these marketing tips may well be very good, but if your story sucks, what is the point?
There is a whole world out there full of hard-nosed profiteers who will take your money and promise you the earth, with interviews, author pages, guest blogs. There’s one right now, on Facebook, advertising ‘How to become a best-selling author’, or words to that effect. Another ‘Make your book sell…find out how to become the next Stephen King’. These books cost 4.99. Great, pay the money, and discover what? The magic formula? I think not.
There are thousands of ‘friends’ who LIKE your book but never ever buy it. They take your free-promos, but they never have the time to write a review. I’m sick of it, there has to be another way to get yourself known, and I wish I knew what it was.
So, what do you do as somebody who wants to write? I’ll tell you my own experience, after doing this since the mid-70s, with 14 books published and 2 more due out this year. You get a job. You earn money. And you write in the evenings, or the weekends, or during your holidays. You write because you love it, because you have the urge to create. And when you’ve written a good story, you write another one. And you don’t stop, because it is what you do. You may never make any money, you may be rejected a thousand times by every agent on the planet, but you don’t care, because for you the writing is all.
That’s it. No big secret. I write, I re-draft (about 3 times), I get it proof-read, I then submit. I’ll no longer go to small independents, and I’ll not self-publish. If an agent one day likes something of mine, I will crack open the champagne and rejoice. But until that day, I no longer have any desire to shout my wares from the rooftop on Facebook. If people buy my books, that is because they like the sound of the story. And that’s good enough for me.
Here’s some timely advice about finding an agent: http://writingteennovels.com/2013/03/21/finding-a-good-literary-agent-for-your-novels-by-paul-volponi/
Visit my websites to find out a little more about me, with links to my books: www.stuartgyates.com and
Thanks for dropping buy, and keep on reading. Here’s a selection of some of my books, with links.